Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Week 5 - Anaka (Part 2)

Michael Salsbury
The Alliance starship Prospect arrived at Outpost 137 on schedule, and received permission to dock.  Outpost 137 had just opened for business, and Captain Garrick gathered from the commander that the Prospect’s visit was their first official one.  He also sensed that they were a bit overwhelmed to have to take on the refugees the Prospect was leaving with them.  Still the outpost commander seemed to realize there wasn’t a better option, and welcomed them in.

Garrick met the refugees at the airlock, to wish them safe travels.  He’d gotten to know a few of them during their brief stay aboard, and hoped that they all made it home soon.

One of the refugees, an older man, asked to speak privately with Garrick.  Although the request seemed a bit unusual, Garrick took the man to a nearby alcove.

“How can I help you?”

The man looked around nervously, and locked his eyes onto Garrick’s.  “I hope I can help you.  You rescued us from that terrible place. You’ve been very kind to us, giving us food and medical attention.  I wanted to repay you by delivering a warning.  That android, Anaka.  Be careful of her.  She is bad luck.”

Garrick’s eyebrow went up.  “I’ve heard that from several of your people.  What does it mean?  Is she dangerous?  Does she injure people?  Did she cause problems for you?  I don’t understand.”

The man shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I can only tell you that bad things happen when she is around.  That is why we refused to let her stay with us.”

“So you’re saying she causes trouble?”

“No,” he shook his head, “I’ve never seen her harm anyone.  I’ve never seen her interfere with anything we did.  As far as I know, she never lied to us.  I just know that when she is near, bad things seem to happen to people.  Bad luck seems to follow her.  I don’t want to you or your people to come to harm.”

Garrick placed a hand on the man’s back and flashed a smile at him.  “Thank you.  I think we’ll be fine.  Let’s get you to the outpost and on with your new life.”

The man nodded and walked with Garrick to the airlock.  Anaka was waiting there.  The man looked at her, and back at Garrick, his expression solemn.  He stepped through the airlock and was soon out of sight.

Anaka walked up to Garrick and smiled.  “You and your crew have been so wonderful to me.  Would you allow me to stay aboard the Prospect with you?”

“Are you asking to join my crew?“

She shook her head.  “In a way, I suppose I am.  I cannot remember where I was created, or by whom.  I know the refugees would prefer I didn’t go with them.  I hoped that maybe I could go with you.  Your people have been so kind and accepting of me.”

“Anaka, in order to be a full member of the Prospect’s crew, you’ll have to graduate from the Alliance Fleet Academy on Earth.  I can’t take you there for a while.  Even if I could, there’s never been an android on Earth, much less in the Fleet Academy.  I don’t know if they’ll even admit you.  So if you stay with us, you’ll have to remain aboard the ship.  I can let you off at Alliance outposts and facilities, but can’t let you leave on official missions.”

“I understand.  That’s very fair.”

“Garrick to quartermaster.  See if you can find quarters for the android Anaka, and escort her to them.  See that she gets anything that any guest of the Prospect is entitled to.  Have the engineers drop by to see if they can provide her with any additional repairs she may need.”

Garrick signaled the outpost commander that the refugees were aboard, thanked him for taking care of them, and told his crew to get underway.

“Captain Garrick, this is the Comms officer.”

Garrick tapped his wrist comm link, “Garrick.  Go ahead.”

“We’ve received orders to rendezvous with the medical ship Pasteur.  They have a load of vaccines that need to be taken to the Alliance colony on Trafalgar VI.  They’re experiencing an epidemic.”
“Acknowledge the orders and signal the Pasteur that we’re on the way.  Best speed.  I’ll be in the mess hall.”

“Aye, sir.”

Garrick heard the familiar change in the ship’s ambient hum that signaled a change in speed.  The ship’s acoustic system would counteract it within seconds, using a complementary sound wave to cancel out the noise.  Even though the noise was short-lived, it made him happy to notice it.


As he ate lunch, Garrick reviewed the mission briefing from Fleet HQ.  The Pasteur seemed better equipped to lead the mission to Trafalgar VI, so he wasn’t sure why they were sending the Prospect.  While the Prospect had a medical team and quarantine facilities, the Pasteur had all that along with a top-notch medical lab, vaccine production system, and at least three times as many doctors and nurses.

As the old saying goes, Garrick thought to himself, mine is not to reason why.  Maybe this is another one of those ‘learning experiences’ Admiral Boxleitner likes to throw at us… training disguised as a mission.

Garrick looked to notice Anaka walking on the other side of the mess hall and waved to her.  She walked across the room and sat down at the table across from him.  “Hello, Captain.”
“I’d like to have a talk with you.”

She smiled. “I’d like to speak with you, too.  I’ve been getting to know the crew.”

“Great.  Several of them have said nice things about you, and how you’ve helped them.”

Anaka’s smile grew wider.  “I like to help.”

Garrick took a bite of steak from his plate.  “We’ve never really had an opportunity to have a normal conversation.  I was hoping we might be able to do so now if that’s OK?”

She nodded.

 “You were on a ship that crashed, brought down by the scavengers.  Do you remember much about your time on the ship?”

“I have a few images in my long-term memory of the ship before the crash, but little else.”

“That’s too bad,” he said, taking a bite of his sandwich.  “Do you know if there were other androids like you aboard the ship?”

“No.  I think there might have been.  I did find a few spare parts, but no other androids.  Perhaps they only stationed one aboard each ship, or perhaps I was one of a kind.  I can’t access those memories.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.  It must leave you wondering a bit who you are, where you came from, and why you were created.”

She looked at him and nodded.  “Yes.  But I do know my purpose, at least.  I’d lost it for a while.”
“Lost it?  In the crash?”

“Yes. My memories were badly damaged.  I could function on only a very basic level.  My survival programming was intact, but almost everything else was missing.”

“Considering the scavengers used an electromagnetic pulse to bring down ships, it’s possible that had some impact on your circuitry.  You said you got your purpose back after you lost it.  Did you find a backup or something?”

“I never found any backups.  The scavengers may have taken them when they looted our ship.  I don’t know.  When the next ship crashed, I was able to get aboard it before the scavengers did.  It was still daylight, and they wouldn’t come out until evening.”

“I remember.”

“I found a robotic brain there.  It seemed more advanced than mine, or at least more intact.  I interfaced with it.  It helped me clean out damaged memories and reconstruct my programming.”
“Was it some kind of repair device?”

She shook her head.  “No, it called itself Auditor.  It worked for a law enforcement organization.  It helped me find my mission directives, and restored my purpose.”

“I see.  And your purpose is?”

“I maintain balance and order.  I find what has been hidden.”

That sounds rather suspiciously like an auditor, Garrick thought.  I wonder if the auditor shared its purpose with Anaka, rather than restoring her own?

“Balance, order, and truth?  That seems like a good mission.  Is there any chance you were built to perform law enforcement work?”

She cocked her head to one side, and seemed to be processing the question.  “That seems like a logical extension of my programming.”

“Would you be capable of killing a criminal?”

She stiffened. “No, that I cannot do.  That is hard-wired into my programming.  I must not kill.”
Garrick felt himself relax.  “Good.  I don’t want any killers aboard my ship.”

“Bridge to captain.”

Garrick tapped his comm link.  “Garrick.”

“We’ve reached the Pasteur.  Their captain’s coming over in a shuttle with the vaccine.  He’d like you to meet him in the docking bay.”

“Understood.  Send the duty medical officer there, too.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Garrick out,” looking across the table at his companion, “We’ll have to continue this later.”

“I’d like that, captain.”

Garrick took his tray to the cleaning station, and walked to the shuttle bay.


Dr. Harrison was waiting at the entrance to the shuttle bay when he reached it.

“Has their shuttle landed yet?”

“No, captain.”  She pointed at the monitor to the left of the door.  Garrick saw the shuttle bay doors closing behind the Pasteur’s shuttle.  The Pasteur’s shuttles were bright, shining white and very sleek, with large red crosses painted onto the roof, sides, bottom, and rear.  They were almost difficult to look at, even in the monitor.  Garrick rubbed his eyes.

The monitor indicated that the shuttle bay had pressurized.  Garrick unlocked the door and stepped into the shuttle bay.  Harrison was close behind.  The Pasteur’s captain, Lance Floria, stepped out of the shuttle carrying two large cases.

“Welcome aboard, captain,” Garrick said, saluting.

Floria returned the salute with a nod, his hands busy holding the cases.  Harrison rushed over to relieve him of them.  “Are these the vaccines?”

“Yes,” Floria said, “They’re perishable, so get them into cryo as soon as you can.  There’s an optical storage chip inside with all the details about the vaccine.”

Harrison turned to face Garrick, “Captain?”

“Yes, of course, doctor.  Take care of the cargo.  Dismissed.”

She nodded and rushed off with the cases.

“Do you have time for a tour, Captain Floria?”

“No, and neither do you.  I just got word from the colony physician on Trafalgar.  They need the vaccine right away.”

“If this is such a big emergency, why aren’t they sending your ship?  You’re better equipped—“

Floria looked around nervously.  “Are we alone here?”

“Computer, are the captain and I alone in the shuttle bay?”

The computer chimed.  “Yes, captain.”

Floria’s eyes locked onto Garrick’s, and he stepped so close to Garrick that it made him want to step back.  “This is an Alliance TOP secret.  Need to know only.  There’s some kind of virus at work back on Earth.  The epidemic’s in its early stages.  They’re about to announce a quarantine.  All the medical ships are being called back.”

Garrick gestured in the direction Harrison had gone.  “Is it that disease?”

Floria shook his head.  “No.  No one’s sure just what it is yet.  We’re not sure if it’s an alien virus or some kind of engineered plague.  We just know we’ve never seen anything like it.”

Garrick felt a chill.  “My mother’s still back on Earth.”

“I know.  My wife and children are there.  My wife didn’t want to bring them off-planet.  I don’t know when I’ll see them again.”

“Is there anything we can do?”

“You’re doing it.  Taking the vaccine to Trafalgar’s going to let us get to Earth that much sooner.  Here’s a piece of advice.  If I were you, I wouldn’t make direct contact with anyone who’s been to Earth in the past two weeks.  The disease symptoms start to show after a week.  I’ve got to go.”
Garrick reached out to shake Floria’s hand, and realized he was wearing gloves.  He looked up at Floria.

“Don’t take any chances, Garrick.  This thing’s serious.”

“I won’t.  If you can, keep me posted.”

Floria nodded, then rushed back to his shuttle.

Garrick exited the shuttle bay.  The door sealed behind him, and he heard the alarm klaxons as the outer airlock opened to let Floria’s shuttle launch into space.

Images of his mother flooded Garrick’s mind.  She was his last surviving relative.  Is she already infected?  Is she somewhere safe?  He’d check on her later.  He just couldn’t tell her why he was checking on her.  He wondered if she’d see through that and figure out something was wrong.  He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.  Speaking of the bridge, I need to get back there.


As he stepped off the lift onto the bridge, Captain Garrick noticed the tactical officer’s station was unoccupied.


The young ensign turned her chair to face him.  “Yes, captain?”

“Where’s the duty tac officer?”

She looked at the empty station, then turned to her computer display.  “Lieutenant Sommer was on his way here thirty minutes ago.  He never made it.  I—“

Just as she opened her mouth to speak, she closed it, and put a hand to her ear to better hear the voice in her earpiece.


“Yes, ensign?”

“Security tells me Lieutenant Sommer is dead.  He apparently slipped and fell down a service tube.  His neck is broken.”

“They’re sure this was an accident?”

She asked the question.  “Yes, sir.  The surveillance camera showed him tripping over a cleaning robot and falling down the shaft.”

“A cleaning robot?  Aren’t those supposed to stay away from the crew?”

“Yes, sir.  Security says this one had a malfunctioning sensor.  It couldn’t have seen Sommer.”


Garrick had worked hard to get to know every crewman under his command, from the officers to the chefs in the mess hall.  He felt it made him a better commander, knowing his people, their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and dreams, and their perspectives.  The flip side to this was that it made their deaths that much more personal and painful for him.  These weren’t just faceless people in uniforms.  They were people he knew and cared about.  He and Sommer had shared a lager in the ship’s pub just two weeks ago.

“Send Sommer’s record to the computer station in my quarters.”

She looked down at her station, trying not to make eye contact with him.  She could hear the sadness in his voice, although he tried to hide it.

“Yes, sir.  It’s been sent.”

“Navigation, how far are we from Trafalgar VI?”

The navigator turned to face him. “We should be there within the hour, sir.”

“Comms, who’s next up for tac duty?”

She tapped a few controls on her console.  “That would be Lieutenant Gaines.”

“Tell her we need her up here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell her to be careful getting here.”


The Prospect hailed the colony on Trafalgar VI.  There was no response.

“Garrick to MedBay.  You’d better get a crew ready to head down to the colony.  They’re not responding to our hails.  I doubt that’s good news.”

“On our way, sir.”

“Garrick to Security.”

“Security.  Chief Markov.”

“Abel, we’re sending a medical team down to the planet.  I want you to send a security officer with them.  And I want quarantine protocols initiated on the Prospect immediately.  Work with MedBay to get everything in place.  Anyone and anything coming back from that planet gets quarantined and scanned.”

“Acknowledged, captain.”

“Garrick out.”


The medical team passed Anaka as they entered the shuttle bay.  They took Biohazard suits from lockers in the shuttle bay and carried them to the shuttles.  Doctor Leguin carried the containers of vaccine, while Nurse Martin carried his Biohazard suit and her own.

“You’ve always got my back, nurse.  Thank you.”

He blushed slightly, “You’re welcome.”

Security officer Gomez joined them a moment later, carrying his own Biohazard suit.  “Excuse me.  I need to get to the pilot’s seat.”

“What?” Nurse Martin asked.  “Oh, yes of course.  You’re flying us down?”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll also be there to protect you, if it comes to that.”

Leguin glared at him.  “Protect us from what?  The disease these people are fighting attacks the nervous system.  They’re wracked with pain for a while, then get a high fever and fall into a coma.  They don’t get back up and attack anyone.”

“Maybe so, but maybe some of them aren’t infected yet.  Maybe they’d want to steal the shuttle so they can get out of there.  They might go through you to do it.  Anyway, it’s Garrick’s orders.  A precaution.”

“Fine, fine.  Let’s go already.”


Garrick called up Lieutenant Hendrick Sommer’s service record, and located the information about Sommer’s next of kin: Carina Sommer – mother.

Being the captain of a starship came with certain perks to offset the duties.  The responsibility of notifying a crew member’s next of kin, however, wasn’t one of them.

 “Computer, establish secure direct comm link to Earth, to Carina Sommer in Stuttgart, Germany.”


He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly as the computer opened a communication link to the Sommer household back on Earth.  An icon on the screen expanded to become a live communication link to Sommer’s mother.  Garrick tried not to let her remind him of his own mother, but there was enough of a resemblance that he couldn’t complete put the thought out of his mind.

“This is Carina Sommer.  May I help you?”

“Mrs. Sommer, I’m Captain Paul Garrick of the Alliance starship Prospect.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Sommer said, smiling.  “Hendrick has spoken of you.  He says that you are the finest officer he’s ever served with.”

Garrick felt a lump swell up in his throat and turned away.

Mrs. Sommer’s smile faded.  A faint glimmer of hope lit her eyes.  “Is Hendrick ill?”

Garrick swallowed, took a breath, and looked in her eyes on the screen.  “Mrs. Sommer,” he began, a tear falling from each eye, “I’m sorry… Hendrick died today.”

“How?  Was it some kind of battle?  An illness?”

Garrick shook his head.  “As best we can determine, it was an accident.  He tripped over a cleaning robot and fall down a maintenance shaft.  His neck was broken during the fall.”

Mrs. Sommer began sobbing.  “My boy… my beautiful boy…”

“I am so, so sorry.  Hendrick was a good man, and a good officer.  His actions have saved the lives of the crew many times.”

“You’ll bring him back to me, won’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.  We’ll bring him home as soon as we can.”

“That is good.  I must go now.  I cannot talk anymore.”

The screen went dark.

Garrick stared at it for a while.  As he had many times since taking command of the Prospect, he wondered whether the loss in human life would ever truly be balanced by the value of space exploration.  Realizing that he’d just told a woman very much like his own mother that she would be burying her only son, that cost seemed particularly high at the moment.

He needed a drink.


The shuttle landed on the planet’s surface, next to the Trafalgar colony’s medical center.  The doctors and nurses aboard donned their Biohazard suits, as did Gomez.  Gomez attached a scanner to the waist of his suit, and removed a sidearm from the shuttle’s armory.

“Surely you don’t think you need that here?”  Doctor Leguin asked.

“I hope not, but I don’t want to find out I’m wrong out there”, Gomez told him.  “Is everyone in their suits?  Good.  Are we ready to open the airlock?  Alright.  I’m going out first.  When I give you the all-clear, the rest of you can join me.  Got it?”

They nodded.

Gomez stepped into the shuttle’s airlock and sealed the inner hatch.  When it locked into position, the outer door began to open.  He could see the bright sunshine of Trafalgar through the opening.   There was no sign of movement outside.

When the hatch opened completely, he stepped outside.  He had prepared himself to see people writhing in pain or lying in hospital beds.  The reality was far different.  People had collapsed everywhere.  Some were inside.  Some were outside.  Some were on beds inside the medical center, others we draped across chairs, bushes, rocks, and other objects.  It looked like the aftermath of a military attack.

He pulled the scanner from his belt.  There were life signs here and there, but most were very faint.  They barely registered as alive.  He tapped the comm link in the suit’s helmet.

“Gomez to shuttle crew.  You’re cleared to exit.  But I gotta warn you, it’s not pretty out here.”


Garrick and the others on the bridge crew watched the central monitor as images from the Biohazard suit camera reached the ship.  None of them had seen anything quite like it, except in images from old wars or plagues.

Doctors Leguin and Ross took charge of the situation.

Leguin turned to Gomez, “Since you here, you might as well be useful.  Give the vaccine to those three over by the tree.”

“Not so fast, doc. I ain’t no good with needles,” Gomez said, holding up his palms.

“Then this is your lucky day,” Leguin said, grabbing Gomez’s hand and slapping a stack of packets into it.  “The vaccine’s transdermal.  You just open the packet, pull out the patch, peel off the foil, and slap onto the patient’s neck.”

Gomez looked down at his hand.  “You sure we don’t need one of these?”

“We’re in the Biohzard suits.  We’ll be fine.”

Gomez walked over to the tree, and stood next to the nearest body.  He opened a packet and slapped a patch on the woman’s neck, then the child’s next to her, and the child next to him.

“Good job, Gomez,” Leguin told him.  “Keep going until you run out of patches, then come back for more.  Just make sure they’re actually alive.  I don’t know if we have enough for everyone, and it’s not going to help the dead.”


The crew spent the next hour walking around the colony, treating those who were still alive.  With that done, Gomez and the nurses began moving the dead to a makeshift morgue in what was once a gymnasium, covering them with whatever cloth sheets they could find.

The doctors tended to the living, doing their best to give each patient a fighting chance to survive.  When they failed, Gomez helped move the body to the morgue.


The day’s events had drained much of the crew’s emotion, especially Captain Garrick.  He didn’t remember walking to the mess hall, picking up a tray, and filling it with food, but he was sitting at a table and there was a plate in front of him just the same.  He felt numb, but the growling from his midsection convinced him to pick up a fork and start working on the meal.

When he looked up to see Anaka across from him, he nearly jumped.

“You don’t look well, captain.”

Garrick looked down at his tray, not wanting to make eye contact with her.  “I’m not.  It’s been a difficult day.”

“Has it?”

“I sent a medical team down to the planet beneath us.”

“I know.  I passed them on their way to the shuttle.”

“Uh huh,” Garrick said, taking a bite of fried rice.

“Doctor Leguin treats people unfairly.”

“What?  No, he’s just a bit crude sometimes… even to me.”

“He acts as though he’s superior to everyone, except Nurse Martin.  He seems to be nice to him.”
“I think they’re an item.”

Anaka looked at Garrick.

“An… item?”

“I think they’re dating, in love.”

“Ah.  I saw Dr. Ross ordering someone around, too.  What makes her think that’s acceptable?”

“Anaka, it’s perfectly normal.  On a starship, we all have jobs to do.  Not everyone can do everything on the ship, and we don’t always have the resources or time to do everything we want to do.  There are members of the crew whose job it is to decide what tasks are most important, and to make sure they get done.  That sometimes means telling someone to do something.  It’s not rude or unfair.  It’s simply how command structures and starships work.  Everyone on this ship has a superior officer whose job it is to tell them what to do.”

“It doesn’t seem like a very fair or balanced way to do things.”

“Can we not talk about this right now?  I’m very tired.”

Anaka stood up.  “Of course captain.”

Garrick finished the meal in front of him, but if you’d asked him what he had just eaten, he could not have told you.  His mind was on the colonists below, and the crew he sent down to help them.  He worried about Mrs. Sommer, who’d just lost her son.  He wondered about his mother, and whether she was safe and healthy.

As he cleared his tray and rinsed it, he realized that he couldn’t remember when he’d last slept.  He tapped his comm link.

“Garrick to bridge.”

“Bridge.  Comms officer Webb here, sir.”

“Webb, I’m going to my quarters to get some sleep.”

“Good night, sir.”


Gomez was exhausted, and had fallen asleep in a corner of the colony’s medical center.  He awoke to find the sun was up, too.  He tapped his comm button.

“Hey, it’s Gomez.  Anyone else awake?”

There was no answer.  They were probably sleeping.  He decided to go back to the shuttle and find something to eat.  As he passed through the main recovery area of the medical center, he froze in his tracks.

Lying on the floor were the two doctors and three nurses he’d come down to the surface with, lying motionless in their Biohazard suits.  He grabbed the scanner off his belt and aimed it in their direction.  Just like the colonists lying around the room, their life signs were extremely weak.

“Gomez to Prospect.”

“Prospect.  Webb here.”

“We’ve got a big problem here.  The doctors and nurses, they’re infected.  They’re on the ground.”
“Gomez, it’s Captain Garrick.  Did they take off their Biohazard suits?”

“No, sir.  They’re still in ‘em,” he looked over at Dr. Leguin.  There was a rip near the ankle on his suit.  Gomez looked at the others.  Their suits were ripped in the same spot.

“Captain, I—“

“We see it, Joaqin.  How did that happen?  How’d they all get rips in the same spot?”

Gomez looked down at his own suit.  It was still intact.  He breathed a sigh of relief.

“I don’t know captain.  Can you send me some help?”

“Not until we know more about what’s going on down there.  I’m going to put Dr. Harrison on with you.  She’s going to tell you what to do to help the rest of the landing party.”

“Yes, sir.”

Gomez found the vaccine cases.  Fortunately there were enough doses left that he could treat the entire landing party, with one left over for himself.  He lifted off their Biohazard helmets and stuck the patches to them.  Harrison let him return to the shuttle when he told her he hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day and was feeling lightheaded.  He ate until he felt like his stomach would burst.  He didn’t know when they’d let him eat again.

As he left the shuttle, Gomez noticed that part of the molding around the outer airlock hatch was loose.  He inspected it more closely, and realized that fragments of Biohazard suit material were attached to it.

“Captain, I think I know how the others’ suits got ripped.  They’re all right handed, so they grabbed the right-side of the hatch to climb out of the shuttle, and ripped their suits on this exposed metal.”
“Then why isn’t your suit ripped, too?”

“I’m a leftie.  I climbed out on the other side.”


Garrick couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.  He pulled up the Prospect’s records for the eight years it had been in service.  There had never been more than one crew member die in a year due to an accident.  Alien attacks, illnesses, sure.  Accidents were pretty rare, and rarely fatal.  So what changed?  Why had his crew become accident prone?

As he stared at the data, he realized that the increase in accidents coincided with the arrival of the refugees on the ship.  More specifically, it matched Anaka’s arrival and continued as she remained with the ship.

He remembered the old refugee’s words.  “She is bad luck.”

That didn’t make sense.  Just having Anaka aboard the ship couldn’t be causing crewmen to fall down maintenance tubes, drink a bottle of cleaning fluid instead of a soft drink, or snag their suits on a door frame…. Could it?  No.  It had to be something else.

“Garrick to Security.  I want you to look at the surveillance footage within two hours of every accident on the ship for the last three days.  Tell me if you find any common elements, no matter how insignificant.”

“Something you want us to look for, captain?”

“Negative.  I hope you don’t find anything, and I’m just being paranoid.”


Trying to be a “remote controlled doctor and nurse” for Dr. Harrison while saying inside a Biohazard suit had exhausted Gomez.

“Doc,” he asked, “I got one patch left.  If I get out of this suit and slap it on me, am I gonna get sick like all these people?”

“I don’t know, Joaquin.  I don’t recommend it.”

“But I probably won’t, right?”

“Probably not.”

“I’m gonna chance it.  I gotta get outta this suit.”

Gomez pulled off the suit’s helmet and quickly unwrapped a vaccine patch.  He slapped it to his neck, then began taking off the rest of the suit.

“This is better.  I can move a lot better now.”

Dr. Harrison sighed.  “Take it easy for a little while.  I don’t know if the vaccine will keep you from getting sick or just lessen the symptoms.  Give it an hour or so.”

“Can do.  I’m gonna go back to the shuttle and get dinner.”


Garrick and a security team cornered Anaka in the Engineering section.  The others stood behind him, weapons drawn.  He turned to them.  “If she makes a move to leave that corner, you’re to fire on her until she stops moving.  Is that clear?”

“Aye, sir,” they said in unison.

Garrick turned to face Anaka, his own weapon aimed at her.  “Do you remember the conversation we had in the mess hall.”

“Yes, of course.  My memory is functioning well.”

“You told me that your function is to maintain balance and to seek what’s hidden.  Correct?”


He took a deep breath.  “You’re also designed not to kill sentient beings.”

“I cannot kill.”  She looked into Garrick’s eyes as she said it.

“But you can, Anaka.  We know what you’ve been doing.  We’ve found security footage of you staging the accidents that killed our people.  You damaged the cleaning robot that Sommers tripped over.  You damaged the shuttle’s door frame so the medical team would compromise their suits.  I suspect you killed others back on the planet where we found you.  One of the refugees tried to warn me.  He said that bad luck followed you like a cloud.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I do now.  That’s why they didn’t want you living with them.  People tended to turn up dead around you.”
She looked down.  He took that to mean he was right.

“By setting up those accidents, you killed members of my crew.”

“No, they could have—“

He held up a hand.  “Stop.  Yes, if they had been expecting the conditions you setup for them, it’s possible they could have avoided injury.  But you’ve gotten too good at it.  Your accidents are nearly impossible to avoid, even when someone’s expecting them, like that spill you left outside my quarters.”

“I never killed.”

“You did.  You created a situation where there was almost no chance the accident could be avoided.  That’s no different from aiming a weapon at the person and pulling the trigger.  Even in that situation, there’s still a chance that your aim would be off, that the weapon could fail, or that the person could move at the last instant.  Your accidents were just as effective.”

She looked around, clearly wondering if there was somewhere to run.  “I was restoring balance.”
Garrick shook his head.  “No.  You created imbalance.”

She looked down again.  “I did not.”

“You did.  By killing three of my engineers, you’ve unbalanced my crew.  The others now have to perform extra duties.  They’re going to be tired, make more mistakes, and take longer to get their work done.  My ship will suffer.  Accidents, real accidents, could happen.  More lives could be lost.  Because of you.  Because of what you’ve done.”

“No.  I cannot kill.  I create balance.”

Garrick nodded.  “You can and do kill.  You’re not balanced.  You’ve set yourself up as judge over me and my crew.  You decide the criteria by which we are to be judged, whether we’re to live or die, and assumed that your mission somehow makes you superior to us.  You are imbalanced.”

“I am not superior.  I am an equal, it is my mission to decide—“

“To decide who is right or wrong, to live or die?  Listen to yourself, Anaka.  You create imbalance.  You are imbalanced.  You have killed.  What will you do about that?”

Anaka’s eyes widened, the pupils darted back and forth.  “I… cannot kill, but I have killed… I exist to create balance, yet I have caused imbalance…”

“You have hidden the fact that you caused the accidents.  You have hidden the fact that you have killed, even from yourself.”

Anaka’s body began to shake.  “I have hidden facts… I have killed… I am not balanced…”
The android’s chin drooped down toward her chest.  Smoke poured from her ears, nose, and mouth.  Her arms hung limply at her sides.  She stood motionless.

Garrick turned to his men, “Keep your weapons trained on her.  We know she can lie.  This may be a trick.”

“Garrick to Carstairs.  I have a Directive 51 situation, with the android Anaka.”

“Carstairs here, sir.  On our way with crate.”

“Computer, send our location to Carstairs.”  The computer beeped to acknowledge the command.
Anaka remained still as the engineers arrived with a crate.  They picked the android up and loaded it into the crate, attaching anti-grav handles to it.  The lid of the crate swung down and latched into place.  Garrick couldn’t shake the fact that it reminded him of a coffin.  Just like Sommers, Anaka would arrive at Earth in a box.

“Dismissed,” he told the security guards, then turned to Carstairs. “I need you to see if you can find the android’s power source and disconnect it.  I think I convinced her to shut down, but we don’t need her waking up on us later.  She’s a killer.”

“Aye, sir.”  Carstairs and his men hauled the crate out of sight.


On the planet’s surface, the sun was rising again.  Gomez opened his eyes, and stood to his feet.  This time, he wasn’t alone.  All of the patients in the beds we beginning to stir.  Some were sitting up.
Gomez looked at the spot on the floor where the medical team had fallen.  Their Biohazard suits were there, but they were gone.  Gomez felt a shiver run through him, and nearly jumped out of his uniform when Dr. Leguin slapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Lieutenant Gomez,” Leguin said, “You’ve turned out to be one fine doctor.”

If you'd like to provide feedback about this week's story, click here.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


Post a Comment